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Jonathan Sanchez Examined

Today let's take a look at 26 year-old Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez.

Sanchez posted a 5.01 ERA in 158 innings/29 starts this year.  However, his xFIP put him at 4.36.  A more advanced stat, tRA, put him at 4.53.  His month-by-month ERAs were inconsistent - 3.48, 5.20, 3.10, 8.57, 3.75 (two starts), 7.83.

Sanchez pitched 75.6 innings in 2007, so in 2008 his total jumped by 82.3. Injury history: biceps tendinitis in March of '07, rib cage strain in July of '07, strained oblique in September of '07, and a rotator cuff strain in August of '08.  That 7.83 ERA September this year was after he returned from the DL.  He's a risky pitcher.

Sanchez is appealing because of his peripherals - 8.8 H/9, 0.8 HR/9, 4.3 BB/9, 8.9 K/9.  The walks (and subsequent 1.45 WHIP) are the unappealing part. He flashed solid control in June and only walked one in his two August starts (one of those against the Astros, dead last in the NL in walks).

Does he deserve credit for the low hit and HR rates?  His BABIP was .327 vs. the Giants' .315 mark, so if anything he was shafted even while allowing less than a hit per inning.  A 10.0% HR per flyball rate and 41.1% groundball rate suggest the HR rate is fairly realistic.

Projection systems: Bill James says 3.90/1.40, Marcels says 4.61/1.44, ZiPS says 4.28/1.46.  He's probably not going to help your WHIP unless he takes an unforeseen leap in control or has a swing in his BABIP luck.

Stuff-wise his fastball averages 90.8mph and he'll also use a changeup and a slider.  He gets tons of swings and misses.  In their '07 handbook, Baseball America called Sanchez's fastball "sneaky-fast" and spoke highly of his changeup.  He doesn't throw as many changeups as Cole Hamels, but Sanchez does have some similarities.

Put it all together and we have the makings of a high-risk, high-reward fantasy pick.  Sanchez is capable of whiffing 40 in a month; he's also capable of walking everyone or winding up on the DL.  It's a bit early for mock draft data, but Sanchez is being picked in the 18th round right now - after Mike Pelfrey, before Jered Weaver.  By the 18th or so things are enough of a crapshoot that Sanchez is a fine upside play.  If he gets hurt and you cut him it won't really affect your team.  For some reason I had a strong 18th round in '08 - in various drafts I picked Nate McLouth, B.J. Ryan, Conor Jackson, and Hiroki Kuroda.

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